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tv   BBC Newsnight  PBS  September 1, 2012 5:05am-5:30am EDT

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and union bank. >> at union bank, our relationship managers work hard s to understand the industry you operate in. working to nurture new ventures and help provide capital for key strategic decisions. we offer expertise in a wide range of industries. what can we do for you? >> can unmanned drones be the future of policing? and where will that leave any chance of privacy? this week the drones which have transformed warfare and which could soon be used by ordinary people. >> unmanned drones, we can be watched in our -- on our own property and even in our own homes. >> and should science be used
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to reduce the risk of children being born disabled? we ask if it could possibly be making a respectful comeback. >> there are powerful moral reasons to enhance human beings and indeed human beings are self-improvers. >> from science fiction movies or perhaps as high tech weapons in the skies over iraq or afghanistan, but over the next decade the use of drone technology by ordinary people is set to increase, far sums are being spent on civilian drone projects and everything from police surveillance to amateur photography. in the united states, congress has told the u.s. airspace regulator to open up north america to drones by 2015. but are we ready for a world in which thousands of drones are patrolling our skies?
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>> they are the eyes and ears of the armed forces. a decade ago, less than 5% of u.s. military aircraft were unmanned. now 40% have no pilots onboard. many think the f-35 will be the last conventional fighters ever flown by the r.a.f. but the role of the drone is now changing. british skies are about to open up to thousands of civilian drones. who is watching the drone operators and how safe is this new technology? next to an army training zone in the british countryside is a glimpse of how drones could be used in the future.
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it might not look like the spy planes in afghanistan or yemen, but this is one of the first commercial uses of an unmanned aircraft in the u.k. itself. as the cost of digital cameras come down, some new applications are starting to become possible. >> 38,000 feet, 1,000 knots, 76%. >> these light-weight drones fly by themselves using splite tracking to glide from point to point. >> it's going to be taking many thousands of pictures, and those picture -- and we'll know the precise location of each one. so it's possible to pull those photographs together. >> the data is then analyzed to find out how well crops are growing and if more fertilizer or pesticide is needed. >> it's a very thoughtful technology. if we look in the agriculture domain, for example, you can see scaling up for maybe some of the planes and the big fields you might have in
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canada, for example. if you're looking at other areas of technology, we could be in construction, it can be in filming, it can be strirmental monitoring, it's almost endless the sorts of applications, a real benefit and not intrusive and not invasive. >> endless possibilities, maybe, but as small light-weight drones get cheaper, serious questions are being asked about surveillance and privacy. >> who is protecting the public's civil liberties and privacy? with the huge increase in the amount of private companies and institutions able to use drones over our heads, who is going to stop people from watching us in our property and even our own homes? the civil aviation authority made it clear it's not within their -- they don't have the authority or resources to monitor what people are doing with drones.
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their remit is solely concerned with safety. >> and with drones costing a fraction of the price of helicopters, the worry is authorities will greatly extend the use of aerial surveillance. a small drone was used to film "clashes" last year at a political rally in poland. but this wasn't controlled by the police. it was all filmed by a private company on the demonstrator's side of the street. it raised new questions about who will be watching who in the future. the real money, though, will not be in building small helicopters but in selling larger, more powerful drones. government agencies and search and rescue. and ship cargo long distances. with this in mind, congress has told the u.s. regulator to open up all domestic airspace, two large drones by 2015.
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the u.k. won't be far behind. >> don't think the public is aware about how quickly this is going to be happening. we're talking in the u.s. that the skies will be opened by 2015, and in the u.k. and europe by 2020. so that's going to happen very quickly, and i don't think the public is really aware of the changes that are going to happen. though it's a real failure to have a proper discussion and proper debate about this. very few parliamentarians, for instance, are talking about this. >> here in the u.k., there may have been little public discussion, but quietly and behind the scenes a serious amount of public money is being spent. a consortium of large defense companies have been given 31 million pounds to try and prove drones can safely share skies with commercial jets. one of the largest grants of this type handed out. another 20 million pounds of taxpayers' money is being spent
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turning this old military base and the airspace around it into the largest drone test sites in europe. this is on the west coast of wales, home to the british army's new watch keeper drone program. and the only airport in the u.k. where companies are allowed to test that kind of unmanned technology. the spy planes hidden away in the hangars here will eventually go to afghanistan. this is -- hangers here will eventually go to afghanistan. there is teething problems to overcome. a drone crashed next to the runway three years ago. there were no injuries but it clearly spooked people living near the site. >> ♪ you know that? >> opera singer lives a mile up the road. >> because you can't get rid of
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the noise, i can't get rid of the connection between the drone and its purpose in life. ok. it's a killing machine. it's spying -- well, they say this one won't be carrying bombs but drones do carry bombs and i know maybe this one can too. but it has cameras. and i don't know what happens to these footages, who's watching, what they do with it. question mark. >> the questions raised in west wales, privacy, noise, safety, a hurdle the industry itself will need to overcome. there are clearly some economic benefits to using unmanned aircraft, but first we'll have to accept the idea of drones flying high above our heads in british skies.
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>> now, the olympic motto of higher, faster, stronger, always had one obvious theme, better. this week the london paraolympic games are showing off their talent for some of the greatest disabled athletes but there is now an old debate, should science help those at risk? is it a noble aim to rid the world of mental and physical disability? >> taking control of the evolutionary process to improve the human condition. that is the rash nail of ugenics. >> would be better by far for them and the rest of the community if they had never been born.
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>> the most heinous crimes of the 20th century, the holocaust, the mass murderer of the disabled, the forced sterilization of those considered inferior. all took place in the name of ugenics. but can we embrace the problem of ugenics without its totalitarian, by individual choice? [whistle] >> hey. >> the world is about to descend upon london for the paraolympic games. more than 4,000 athletes will compete in 20 different events.
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these british athletes are preparing for the competition. the games are a celebration not merely of sport but of the human spirit. a celebration of the greatest disabled athletes on the planet. [whistle] >> good point. >> but 100 years ago, london welcomed around a different gathering. disability was at the top of the agenda, but with a very different twist. it was here on the banks of the tames in the summer of 1912 that the first international ugenics conference took place. this was no fringe event. many of the world's leading politicians and scientists descended upon london to debate, amongst other things, the very simple issue -- how to rid the world of physical and mental disability. the media coverage hinted at a
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brighter future, taking advances in our understanding of genetics and breeding to enhance future well-being and reduce disease and disability. churchill attended the conference as did the former prime minister, notables include h.g. wells and canse, a professor of the ugenics society. >> inborn qualities rather than racial qualities. >> professor james moore is an expert on the history of ugenics and its consequences. >> the constituency for ugenics was most professional and middle-class people but ultimately the constituency was future generations. the unborn.
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they spared future generations, those who ought not to be born. and nord to do that, -- and in order to do that, the future of the unborn future was really quite easy to convince people that some people would be an infelix. -- and infelix. >> but from these seats, eugenics was quite different. in the hands of the nazi, it was a project not for improving lives but for destroying them. [speaking german] >> the affect of the environment, on human traits was virtually ignored. eugenics was the pretext for eliminating anyone considered intellectually, physically or racially inferior. >> consultants, people who later were honored by the nazis and who wrote the textbooks
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that were quoted by adolf hitler and the founders of german racial policy in the 1930's. of course, no one saw that coming then. >> but eugenics survived the end of the second world war. sweden performed more than 62,000 sterilizations of the mentally and physically disabled right into the 1970's and often by force. virginia sterilized 8,000. california 21,000. other programs existed in korea, japan, canada and beyond. this is the covert history of 20th century disability and it hasn't stopped yet. in the last two decades, there have been involuntary sterilizations amongst gypsies in europe and in the native people of peru. [whistle] >> many of the para olympians who will be celebrating in london have the same disabilities as those whose rights have been violated.
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but does this mean we should right off eugenics in its totality? we stand at the dawn of a new era where advances in genetic engineering and embryo selection could permit parents to take far more control of the genetic makeup of their children. should the prospect of designer babies be ignored just because of its associations with nazism? >> it's sometimes said because of the nazis embraced eugenics that it must be wrong for us to at least take the idea of improving human beings seriously. now, it seems to me just rather silly to think that things are wrong because bad people do them. so if it is true, with you i think it's doubtful that the nazis made the trains run on time, it doesn't mean it's wicked to try to have a punctual railway system.
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there are powerful moral reasons to enhance human beings and indeed human beings are self-improvers. [whistle] >> this conception of eugenics has nothing to do with violating the rights of the disabled. it's about allowing parents to do the best for themselves and their children. but critics see dangers. >> i think sometimes having a disability can make life harder. it doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. it just means that some things in life are more of a challenge. >> a british paraolympian has a genetic condition that causes partial sightedness. >> i wouldn't want a designer baby. i think you then take on the responsibility of how that child is when it's born. if you made that decision, it's on your head. when you start meddling with that from the start and playing god with that in that situation you are then responsible.
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>> we don't want nature to take its course. nature is a killer. we could not practice medicine if we believed in letting nature takes its course. one of the best definitions i know to frustrate the course of nature. >> the debate over eugenics hinges on an even deeper question, perhaps the deepest question of all -- what gives value to human life? >> life ends the same way for everyone. we all will finish this life at some point. what did you do with it along the way? >> these are children who are healthy. >> eugenics has taken humanity down many dark roads and caused untold suffering, but could the
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new eugenics, finally be about to fulfill its promise? >> well, to discuss the issue further, i spoke to john harris, the professor of biometics at manchester university. with us was ian, a british newspaper columnist what he calls the apar thide of what people takes. and kerry, a children's tv presenter who has the lower part of her right arm missing. what do you think of the big moral argument, we need to try to prevent disease andnd prevent disability if it can? >> i think it's more of just a moral argument or judgment. i think it's a human responsibility really. i think all of us are responsible for the future of the human race in one sense. i think if you're going to go
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down that road saying we can create the perfect person, what you're doing is then saying, well, unless we match up to this, therefore, everyone else is imperfect in some way. and, you know, it's very foolish to think that we can create an almighty human because, you know, we're human beings as long as we have war, we're going to have disabilities. people are coming back from afghanistan every day maimed in some way or another, and it's like saying, are they also imperfect the same way as people who are born with a disability? and none of us are imperfect. we're just different from what the suggested norm is. >> this has a human face. this isn't just sort of an abstract issue. it is very human. >> absolutely. i don't dissent from everything kerry said. of course she's absolutely right. and i have no interest in the idea of perfection. but it is a serious question as to whether we should try to improve the health of humankind and to improve the health of
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our children. if we can do that at a very early stage, if we can make people more resistant to disease, longer lived, healthier, i think that that is something that a good person would try to do. >> i'll come back to you. i want to ask ian about that. do you think there's something wrong with that vision,? >> i think it's an obscene vision we've seen in history before where it leads. on one degree we should credit professor harris because he's showing us that science is going faster than society can cope at the moment. and with the logical extremism we're seeing these ridiculous and grotesque views. there is presumption around it. it is purely a medical issue. secondly that somehow inferior. there's a secondary status to disabled people and therefore we should do what we can to eliminate them. the fact that a disabled person has a worse quality of life and therefore they should be stopped from living, in every single way it is extraordinarily grotesquely so
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damning and horribly superiorism over disabled people. >> suspect every parent watching this is thinking, what would you have done in your position and how could i have known if -- would i have chosen another way? is that something you thought about? >> i think there's presumption behind that that a child like mine has an inferior way of life. i think all the medical problems she does have, which brings her pain, has a happy life. a lot of people in society have the views that the professor has which is there is a safe -- disabled people are exiled, the fear of disabled people and there is this view that they are inferior and we don't want them part of society. it's behind the question you're asking and the views put forward by professor harris. >> i think you don't know what my views are. >> i do know you advocated in the past which is an
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interesting thing to advocate. >> i have not advocated about it. we are not talking about -- >> you've been quoted in the past of being quoted -- >> i may have been -- certainly -- look. think about disability. think about enhance! i could be better in all sorts of ways than i am. i would like to be more intelligent. i'd like to be more resistant to disease. i'd like to have a better life expectancy i do in fact have. that doesn't mean that i'm unworthy to live now. that doesn't mean that i think that people like me are inferior. of course i don't think any of those things. i don't think i'm inferior. but i do see a considerable point in trying to make people healthier, longer lived so that they can have more productive lives and do more of the things that they would wish to do.
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>> kerry, you've also got a child. it's something you thought about, is this going to be a problem for her? >> will my disability be a problem for her? no, i don't think about it. if it is i don't care. she will have to get on with it and deal with it. there are a millions of things that life can throw at you. having a mom with one hand is one tiny aspect. my daughter's mixed race. have i made her life harder having a mixed race child? i don't know. all i can do is give her love and give her all the creativity and imagination i would give to any of my children and see what she does with it. >> do you think with the advances in science that this debate is not just an inevitable but we are going to have more and more of it because people think more and more about it? >> think it's really sad and i think it's really unfortunate. i think probably you're right. and i really hate the way that health and disability is grouped all into the same thing. you know, we'd all like to have a cure for cancer and aids, but that is a very different thing
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to say someone who's living with an impairment that isn't necessarily making their life harder in a physical sense, perhaps in the sense of how society views them is making their life harder. but impairments aren't necessarily something that needs to be challenged or changed. it's something that needs to be worked out. >> professor, do you think in that context thing it's morally wrong for some people to have children if they know that the child is going to have a particularly severe disability? is it a wrong moral choice for them? >> well, it may well be. i think it's something that -- i think it's something that people -- look, if you are using i.v.f., fracks, and you have -- for example, and you have six embryos awaiting implantation, the law will allow you to implant two of them. now you know that half of them will be severely disabled and the other half will be presumed to be healthy. you can't implant them all. you have to make a choice.


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